Saturday January 6 11:00 AM / 10:00c
Share

This Old Homicide: A Fixer Upper Mystery Book Excerpt - Chapter 1


Lizzie nodded. “The faster she closes the deal, the faster Shannon can get started on the rehab.”

“Well, then.” Jane raised her glass again. “Here’s to Emily’s castle.”

“May all your dreams come true,” Lizzie said fondly, and we drank down the rest of the sparkly champagne.

Now, as I gazed up at the old house, I knew Emily really needed help. Still, the place had good bones, and that was what counted. Right?

At the thought of good bones, I shivered. I wondered if Emily had heard the tales of old Grandma Rawley’s ghost still haunting the place. It didn’t matter. All those scary stories were just silly urban legends and tricks, meant to frighten small children on Halloween. Weren’t they?

I brushed those thoughts aside. Everything would be fine. There was no such thing as ghosts. I repeated the mantra as I studied how the roof rolled and dipped in spots.

Emily’s delicate features registered doubt as the sun slipped behind a cloud and the house grew even darker. “Perhaps I exaggerated a bit, thinking you might be able to turn it into a fairy castle.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll make it beautiful for you,” I assured her, and I meant it. Making Victorian homes look beautiful was my business, after all.

Years ago, our town had been designated a national historical landmark because of all the Victorian-era homes and buildings located here. The Rawley Mansion had once been a gorgeous example of that nineteenth-century Victorian style, before the last Rawley heir died and their gracious home was left to rot. But it didn’t have to stay that way. Within a few months, my crew and I would restore it to its original luster and this shadowy eyesore before us would be a vague memory.

“Thank you, Shannon.” She slung her arm around my shoulders and gave me a quick squeeze. “If anyone can do it, you can.”

“Never doubt it.”

She laughed. “I did for a while, but now I must admit I’m starting to get excited.”

“I don’t blame you. The house is amazing.”

She looked up at the imposing structure. “Or it soon will be.”

It really was amazing—if you had the vision to see past its dilapidated exterior.

It was a classic Queen Anne Victorian, but with one eclectic detail that must’ve suited the original owner’s idiosyncratic style. The rounded, three-story tower on the left front side of the house was topped by what they used to call a Hindustani roof. Instead of the typical tower roof that came to a point like a witch’s hat, this one’s undulating profile resembled a large bell. It sat atop a small, round balcony roomy enough for a table and two chairs. Emily said it would be the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail and watch the sunset.

The rest of the home was more traditional, with a deep- shadowed entrance framed by elaborate ornamentation, asymmetrical rooflines, a wraparound porch, fish-scale shingles on the lower half of the house, and four chimneys.

On the downside, a number of the balusters were rot- ted or simply missing from the porch railing. The stained glass on the door was cracked and faded. Externally, the ravages of time, termites, overgrown plants, and stiff ocean breezes were obvious. Internally, anything was possible. A family of raccoons could’ve taken up residence. Wooden floors could be rotted clean through. Pipes might be fractured. I just prayed I wouldn’t have to rebuild the whole thing from scratch.

I dismissed those thoughts. Why invite trouble? In two weeks when escrow closed and Emily took possession of the house, she and I would conduct a thorough walk-through to determine exactly what the rehab would entail. It all depended on the amount of work, of course, but I estimated that she would be able to move in within three to four months. I had a feeling that that would be cutting it close—like, by a year maybe—but for one of my dearest friends, I was determined to make the timing work. I was already mentally rearranging my crew’s schedules. Emily’s monstrosity was now at the top of my long priority list.